Framework's Intel Core Ultra upgrade gives modular laptops the AI PC spin

Framework Modular Laptop
(Image credit: Framework)

Framework is a laptop manufacturer that promotes sustainability through creating modular laptops designed to reduce e-waste and empower consumers through choice, upgradability, and ease of repair.

Furthering the dream of a fully upgradable laptop, Framework is now taking pre-orders for a new swappable main board featuring Intel's current Cure Ultra chips — bringing an upgrade pathway to users seeking the capabilities of an AI PC.  

Framework Laptop 13: A modular medley of upgrades

The new Intel Core Ultra option brings a host of performance improvements to the new Framework Laptop 13, including an NPU (neural processing unit) and support for up to 96GB of RAM.

However, Framework has made even further upgrades available for their modular laptop, including a new 13.5-inch display that packs a higher 2880 x 1920 resolution and a 120Hz variable refresh rate. Better still, a new 9.2MP webcam enables 1080p capture and improved low-light performance.

The Framework Laptop 13's new processor brings the company's laptop into the AI PC market for the first time, unlocking a host of options when it comes to running AI-based software or models on-device.

(Image credit: Framework)

Intel Core Ultra: Welcome to AI computing

AI PCs are a blanket term that describes laptops and computers that feature an NPU and are designed to run AI-enhanced tools and features. Intel's Core Ultra and AMD's Ryzen 8040 series of processors are the first x86 processors to offer this, touting 10 to 16 TOPS (trillions of operations per second) of performance.

These types of computers have already seen their first evolution with Microsoft's announcement of the Copilot+ PC, which is a classification of AI PC that features an NPU capable of 40 TOPS of performance, with Qualcomm's Snapdragon X-series chips being the primary choice for most manufacturers looking to meet these processor specs.

However, Intel and AMD are gearing up to release their next-gen CPUs featuring improved NPU performance of between 40 and 45 TOPS via Core Ultra "Meteor Lake" and Ryzen "Strix Point" APUs respectively.

The future is modular

Framework's modular laptop is far more than a novelty, showcasing the real potential and usefulness of an upgradable laptop with swappable components. Framework have in essence created the last laptop you'll ever buy by providing the platform capable of being upgrading in all areas, from graphics to processor and even display.

Practically all areas of Framework's laptop are capable of being swapped in or out for newer components. Larger models even allow for customizable keyboard decks that can feature macro pads, RGB lighting, haptic sliders, LED matrixes, and in theory secondary displays.

This level of customization and upgradability allows for smaller improvements over time, not all that dissimilar to desktop PCs. The e-waste reduction is also a massive benefit to those concerned about the industry's footprint, and other manufacturers are beginning to see the potential of modular computing with even Dell showcasing a modular laptop concept called Luna at the tail end of 2022.

The lack of upgradability for laptops is one of the key negatives when it comes to these devices, with their lifespan being typically limited to the generation of processor or GPU housed within. Modular laptops break through this barrier and allow for a longer-lasting laptop with a huge level of customization available when it comes to configuration. 

(Image credit: Framework)

Outlook

The new Framework Laptop 13 is currently available for pre-order starting at $1,100, with shipping starting as early as June.

If you're looking for a laptop experience that can be fine-tuned and customized to exactly suit your needs, with the potential for upgrading throughout the years ahead, then a Framework laptop could be ideal for you.

For news, rumors, and how-tos on everything laptop-related and all things tech, follow Laptop Mag on TwitterFacebook, and Flipboard for the latest word as it arrives.

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Rael Hornby
Content Editor

Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.